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MANCHESTER — If you happen to walk into Manchester Community Library on a Friday afternoon and see a teenage girl running the cafe near the entrance, you might be wondering what she’s doing out of class. Rest assured, though, not only is she right where she’s supposed to be, she’s the right person for the job.

Ariana Monegro, who will turn 16 this month, worked her first shift at Success Cafe this past week, as part of Burr and Burton Academy’s Success Program. The sophomore with a passion for the culinary arts is taking over the cafe from 1 to 4 p.m. on Fridays to learn more about the logistics of running a business.

“I really like baking because it’s just something creative that I can do. Create and experiment,” Monegro said, adding that baking is a bit of a family tradition and a way for her to connect with her late grandmother who lived in Peru.

“Recently I’ve found recipes of hers that I’ve wanted to try, but I just wanted to grow my skills and knowledge of baking before I tried them,” she later added.

Monegro is one of the “shining stars” of the Success Program, according to Jason Pergament, who built the Success Program from the ground up in 2013. The program started out as a means of helping lower-income students, but has been expanded to meet other students in need.

Pergament now uses other metrics, like ACE (adverse childhood experiences) scores, to identify students freshman year who could benefit from the program, as well as those who are aiming to be the first in their family to go to college.

“There are a lot of different reasons kids get put into my program or opt into my program,” Pergament said. “But the majority of them are certainly low-income or first-gen.”

By Pergament’s estimation, well over a quarter of BBA’s enrollment of 775 is involved in the program in some capacity, but few have taken advantage of it to the level of Monegro.

“You plant seeds with kids, and then it’s on them to run with it,” Pergament said. “Ariana gets it. She’s bright, she’s savvy, she comes from a loving and supportive family.”

Monegro is very grateful to all of the people who have come together to give her this experience. She knew she wanted to be a part of the Success Program after her sister, who graduated two years ago, made use of it, as well.

“(The Success Program) has definitely helped me out a lot with figuring out my career,” she said. “It just gives you a lot of opportunities to pursue what you want, and what you enjoy.”

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Paige Vignola, assistant director at the library, has been aware of the Success Program for some time, and was very involved in facilitating the project for Monegro. She frequents Willoughby’s Depot Eatery, owned and operated by Courtney Callo since November 2021. Vignola asked Callo if she’d like to be involved in Monegro’s hands-on education.

Callo, who spent 33 years working as a teacher and administrator for Long Trail School herself, was happy to lend a hand to such a good cause. She is donating some products from her own bakery and teaching Monegro the ins and outs of business elements like food costs and how to turn a profit.

“I’m thrilled. That’s the one part of my job now that I miss, is the kids,” Callo said. “It’s going to be a nice opportunity to work with her.”

Callo said it’s a bit of a welcome return to her Long Trail background.

“And Long Trail really was founded on a lot of first-gen (students) and kids who are at risk. So this sort of goes back to the roots” she said. “Not so much anymore, but when I first started, that’s what it was.”

Monegro might have a few things to learn on the technical side, but everyone who works with her is convinced by her go-getting attitude and personality that she is going to do very well.

“Ariana is very much a self-starter. When you meet her, you feel the vibrancy and care that she applies to her interactions with people,” Pergament said. “I think even though her interests lie in culinary and baking, I think she’s going to be highly successful as a business person, because she has those people skills.”

“When it comes to doing a bakery, you need that creative side, but you have the details part of it, as well. You need both sides of the brain,” added Callo.

“I think she’ll be fine,” she concluded with confidence.

To add to the experience that Monegro will be gaining, she’s also going to be paid for her efforts. The proceeds she makes at the cafe go back into the Success Program, but she is making $15 per hour, tax free, that will go into her college fund thanks to the Stratton Foundation’s Personalized Learning Plan Scholarship, made possible by a grant to Stratton from the Charles S. & Millicent P. Brown Family Foundation. The Brown Foundation has given Stratton the grant since 2019.

Tory Rich can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @ToryRich6